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Bug out bag : Emergency Preparedness kit essentials

Putting together a bug out bag with all the emergency preparedness kit essentials has been one of our 2011 goals. As with all the other goals, we have been slacking off on this one. But the recent Japan Earthquake and our own little flooding emergency drove home the fact that we are thoroughly unprepared for any type of disaster or emergency evacuation situation. My husband spent a bunch of time looking through all the ready made “bug out bags”. We faced a couple of problems with just ordering one of those.

  • They list the contents but I can’t really check the quality of the individual items. Just entering “waterproof match” in Amazon shows me a plethora of brands ranging from 5 stars to 1. When your survival depends on these things, you want to be sure… really sure.
  • All of the kits are pretty pricey.
  • None of them were “complete” so to speak. Each of them was missing different things and had some things we didn’t want (like non-vegetarian food supplies).

Instead we tried preparing for our survival ourselves, with the aid of the world wide web. I made a list from various emergency preparedness websites

This is what we ended up with. Not every item may be necessary. I have also included the entire checklist at the end as a pdf. Feel free to download it and pick/choose which ones you feel is necessary.

What is a “Bug out bag”?

According to Wikipedia – A bug-out bag is a portable kit that contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours when evacuating from a disaster. It is also known as a 72-hour kit,a grab bag, a battle box, and other popular names include GO Bag and GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge) bag.

What goes in a bug out bag?

The main criteria for us when assembling the bug out bag was that it has to be light weight. We might be well prepared but we are not military trained. So we purposely wanted everything to be as light weight as possible. You could have a heavier bag with canned food which you can grab if you know you can drive. But if you have to walk, go as light weight as you can.

I basically split the contents into 10 categories.

1. Water

  • Water filter : We got the Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter. Pricey but has very good reviews. We are planning to use this for our general camping/backing purpose as well, so it was worth the money.
  • Water purification tablets : Polar Pure Water Disinfectant With Iodine Crystals works fast (1 hr) and has indefinite shelf life. Of course, if you can boil the water, that is the best.
  • Stainless Steel Kanteen : Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle portable, and also can be heated by hanging it above a flame. No BPA stuff to worry about.  We could use this for our regular hiking as well.
  • 3 gallon rigid water containers : We bought Reliance Products Desert Patrol 3 Gallon Traditional Jeep Style Rigid Water Container. 2 of these will stay in our car trunks and 1 empty one attached to the bug out bag.
  • Emergency Water Packet : We debated about this and decided to keep some water packets that have a long shelf life and a couple of gallons of regular water. If we have to just grab and run, we would only have the Emergency Water Packet. But if we can load up our car or have to stay in, then those gallons of water will come in handy. We will change them in regular intervals.

Not all of the above are necessary of course. Anyway of getting good, safe water will do. But with any type of disaster, earthquake & fire being the most probable ones in Southern California, water would be the first one to get contaminated. So we wanted to make sure we had a few different ways of getting clean water.

2. Food

I didn’t buy any of the rations yet. I am a vegetarian and most of the options available online were not ideal for me. I plan to visit to REI and stock up on Mountain house meals like - Mountain House Pasta Primavera For TwoMountain House Golden Sweet Whole-Kernel Corn – 2 ServingsMountain House Vegetable Lasagna For Two and  Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai Veggie. I will also add in a bag of rice and nuts.

Question : Have you guys tried any of these meals? Do you know of any good vegetarian meal-in-a-pack that has a long shelf life?

3. Shelter

  • Tarp: An essential.
  • Tent : If you have a backpacking tent, that would do I guess. We wanted something cheap and very light so we bought the Emergency Tube Tent.
  • Mylar blankets : Just to provide some warmth. Emergency Mylar Blankets. We are putting a couple of these in the car trunk as well.
  • Emergency sleeping bags : Again, we looked for very light weight bags that would protect us. This won’t provide us with any comfort, for that if we had access to a car we would take our camping equipment that has the comfortable tent and sleeping bags. For this purpose we stuck with this Emergency Sleeping/Survival Bag.


4. Clothing/Protection

  • Change of clothes : Have a couple of extra sweat shirts and pants in the largest size so that anyone can wear.
  • Ponchos : Nothing fancy, just one to keep you dry and not get sick by getting drenched in the rain.
  • Particulate masks : We learned to have these on hand the hard way after the 2007 Southern California fires.
  • Gloves :  Couple of Nitrile and work gloves.
  • Feminine Hygiene : Very very important. Enough said.
  • Red hand Towel : Just a simple hand towel, I chose a red one for this bag so that it will double as a signaling/flag cloth if we need one.

5. Fire/lighting

6. First Aid

  • First Aid Kit : We bought one of these at the end of last year with our Flexible Spending Account money. A good way to use the left over money. I have the expiry date on top of the box to keep it upto date. Should include basic bandages, scissors, NSAID, bandaids, burn gel, antiseptic, Splint and safety pins.
  • Trauma Kit : More hard core stuff than the first aid kit. Has bloodstopper kit, Ammonia Inhalants, flexible Splint, Blood Pressure Cuff, CPR microshield, Trauma dressing, etc. I combined a couple of Kits and the first aid kit, to have my own medi kit. I put them all in this
  • Anti Diarrhea tablets : This was not included in the common first aid kits.
  • Prescription medications : I don’t know how people usually have prescription medication for the bug out bag as you can’t really buy them before hand. We don’t have any prescription medications, but I just want to put it here so that people will think about this and have a plan to grab these when getting out.

7. Tools

8. Communications

  • Hand Crank emergency AM/FM/NOAA radio : We went with Etón FR160B Microlink Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio as it was hand crank/solar powered, has a flash light and cell phone charger. It is very important to stay informed – latest news, evacuation routes and weather.
  • Two way radio? : We didn’t buy this yet, but want to do some research on this. How do you communicate with your family when you are  several miles apart from each other and there is an evacuation order? No cell phone reception. May be we are over thinking this, but I want to come up with some plan to make sure we know what is happening.
  • Signal Mirror : To attract attention.
  • Satety Whistle : One for each family member.

9. Basic gear

  • Rope/Cord : Handy to tie up your food or set up a tent using your tarp… We bought Rothco 550lb. Type III Paracord.
  • Duct tape : Ask my husband or any engineer they will tell you anything can be fixed using a duct tape.
  • Bug repellent
  • Compass : A simple one.
  • Map of the surrounding area : We are so accustomed to GPS these days that we might be lost without power or any kind of modern electronics. A good old map of the surrounding area is always a good addition.
  • Sun Block : Essential for a hot summer day in Southern California.
  • Zip lock bags : A few of these in different sizes.
  • Trash bags : Again, a couple of them to store dirty clothes and such.
  • Survival Handbook : To identify edible plants and learn basic survival skills.
  • Cash/Coin : A couple of hundred dollars including small denominations and quarters.
  • Deck of cards or sudoku : Definitely not a requirement, but if you want something to keep you occupied.
  • Hygiene Kit : A small travel pouch with soap, Hand Sanitizer, tooth brush & paste.
  • Toilet paper : A couple of rolls.
  • Paper towel : If there is space to keep 1 roll. We set aside 1 small roll, just in case.

10. Other

  • Papers/Documents : As a non-citizen, it is essential for us keep a copy of our immigration documents and passport safe and accessible at all times.
  • Waterproof Flash Drive : We also keep a digital copy of the same documents in a Waterproof Flash Drive.
  • Important phone numbers : Emergency contact numbers.
  • Local Rescue/Emergency/American Red Cross : Local red cross number if we needed help.
  • Notepad/Pencil
  • The actual bug out bag : We packed everything in this TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack. We wanted it to be as light as we could make it and comfortable to walk with.


We didn’t pack anything specific for this but a lot of sites recommend packing some form of defense in the bug out bag.

This is not one cheap bag. We have been saving to put this bag together for a few months now. The original idea is to buy the bag first and then every month buy a few items. After the Japan earthquake, we decided to use part of our emergency fund money to get all the items for the bug out bag. Now that we have the main bag at home, we will slowly build a smaller version of this bag to keep in the car. Do you have a bug out bag?  What did I miss out in mine?

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Little House

I’ve been meaning to put one of these together, too. We have lots of camping equipment, but it’s down in storage and not light weight. In the case of a real emergency, there’s no guarantee we’d be able to reach that stuff. (Northridge earthquake, anyone?) As for your list, it seems very complete. I also haven’t tried those freeze tried Mountain house bags of food, but I look at them every time I go into a Sports Chalet or REI. They are very light weight and only require water to get them going (I don’t even think you need heat.) Thanks for this reminder to get me started on my bag.



Living in Los Angeles, I remember the Northridge earthquake! Clean water was a big issue and utilities were out for a few days. Flashlights, food and water were the important essentials. Periodically, I have to replace my emergency kit because some of the items become date stale.


Everyday Tips

I live in Michigan, so I don’t really think much about ‘emergency items’ outside what I would need in the case of a power outage. Perhaps I should add some things to my list though, and this is very helpful!



You are missing cold hard cash. :)
We don’t have an emergency kit. I know we should, but life is just so busy and we don’t have any storage space. We really should stock up on food and water at least. Those are the most important items in a short emergency. If there is a long emergency, we would drive to my brother’s place in another state. I think that’s far enough to get away from any local problem.



Joe, Cash is under the “Basic Gear” category :) I can’t imagine being without cash during an emergency. Good to have somewhere you could go in an emergency. We still have not figured out where we would go if there is an emergency. In fact we don’t even know where we would meet if I am at work (150 miles from home and my husband’s work). We have to come up with a plan.


Wealth Artisan

Hey there,
Quite the checklist you’ve put together. I’m a bit of a novice survivalist and have made my wife and I our own emergency bags with most of the items you’ve mentioned. Like you said, it’s not cheap, but I feel like you can never be too prepared.
To answer your questions about Mountain House food; Yes, I have tried several different meals and so far all have been pretty palatable. The meal pouches have a shelf like of at least 7 years, but I’m sure they would still taste just fun even past that. The #10 cans last significantly longer, at least 25 years. That includes both meat and vegetarian options.
Hope that helps,



We will come no where near a “survivalist”. We have been meaning to do this for ages, we had this in our last year goals and this year. Hopefully we won’t get to use our bags. I didn’t know about the #10 cans, I will check them out too. Thanks.


The Saved Quarter

We’ve got an emergency kit, but I didn’t buy the meal pouches. Instead, I made a list of grocery store products that would work and will just swap it out every 6 months or so. I wanted to make my menu as healthy as possible, and not requiring much extra water to prepare. Here’s what I ended up putting together, for $75 for our family of 4. http://thesavedquarter.com/2010/09/72-hour-0menu-plan-emergency-preparedness/

It does feel good to be prepared to evacuate in case of an emergency!



Yes, I remember that post. I will check out the Trader Joes readymade meals. Thanks for reminding me.


Eliza from Happy Simple Living

Wow – thank you for taking the time to write this post, include all the links, prices and details, and post it as a PDF! Like the other commenters, you’ve inspired me to get started on our emergency kit.



Thanks Eliza. We have been meaning to do this for a couple of years now :)


Super Frugalette

I have bins with some stuff in but I am no where as prepared as you are. I did buy bleach with the instructions on how to purify water. As for prescription medicines, I have all but the one that needs to be refrigerated in a ziplock bag in my kitchen. Whether it is going to the hospital (which I go to at least once year with my son) or an emergency, having the meds in one bag is crucial. The hospital is always SO excited when I bring in the meds in bottles because then there is NO question what medication or dosage my son is getting.


Diana Quihuis

Hi – great list! I added a multi-tool can opener for those of us who don’t have the Leatherman deal, and a dog food can lid! Not that there’ll be any leftovers from opened cans but for those who put together the emerg. stash of food and throw in a can of condensed milk for that rationed cup of morning java… Also, throw together a few sealed bags of dried soups – I used to get them in a few varieties but can only find pea soup and chili at Whole Foods. I use a Food Saver and vaccum seal the meal in Ziplocks first. This cuts down bulk and preserves the food for a lot longer.
One other thing – a thick black Sharpie for leaving notes on doors etc.
Having been on survival trip – or ones that turned out that way – GORP is the safety backup for energy food – peanuts/raisins/chocolate or carob ships. That’ll keep you going for days – trust me!
For your personal care – Castile soap – Dr. Bonner’s Magic Soaps – is a wonder and you can get it at health food stores in small travel sizes – its organic and doesn’t pollute, has a few scents, and does the job well. On that same vein, using Ayurvedic herbal toothpastes or just natural ones will be easier on the environment if your stuck outdoors for a while.
Lastly – if you have room – a hard-hat and safety googles – you always see the rescue teams wearing them looking for people – why not protect your best investment!



I didn’t think of a dog food can lid. That would be a great addition as some of our food supplies include canned soup. I don’t have any of those items on your list Diana. I will add them too. Thanks.



Wow. I will try to be as least offensive as possible replying to this, but if me and my children are in a true survival situation where we are forced to flee and be at the mercy of elements (survival in LA is not the scene most Americans would have to deal with, and if I was in the city you bet your butt I would have plenty of ammo), I am NOT going to be concerned about “milk for my morning java” or toothpaste that is “organic and easy on the environment”. Kuddos for the fluffy thoughts, but reality is, those things will be last on the order of importance.


Be Nice

Heather if you have to start your thoughts with “how can I be least offensive” you need to regroup and ask yourself if you what you are about to say is T-thoughtful H-honest I-interesting N-necessary and most of all K-kind……in other words THINK! If what you are about to say does not fit ALL of the criteria…than usually, it doesn’t need to be said at all.

Suba thanks for all the effort!! I am just starting to look into this myself and you just saved me tons of research and time!!



Your list is very thorough! When hurricane season comes around I always do a checkup on my emergency supplies but I certainly don’t have anything in a kit that would be readily transportable. We’re prepared for power outages and interruption of clean water services, but not so sure we’re ready if we needed to evacuate. Thanks for bringing this up – I have some planning to do.



Thanks Dana. We might have (already) enough items to live in. But we were very unprepared for an evacuation. Now I am sure I can use this bag to “bug in” as well I guess.


SB (One cent at a time)

Not only yourself, but you have to protect your finances too. It is an indeed good post where you can save yourself during disaster, at leats you have better chance of survival if you follow these listed by you.



This is a great list, and very helpful! I think one important thing to add is diapers and formula/baby food for small children.



Thank you for sharing this post, I really enjoyed the insights and feedback. Yes a lot of kits are not complete, however, to have a complete kit, it will not be the cheapest. I think a lot of these kits provide the very basics, those that don’t really prepare feel like they can justify their spending with that least amount of supplies and affordable pricing. I like you am very thorough with my preparation. Most people I come across see me prepping as a way of being fearful and negative but for me it is to avoid the fear by prepping. I realize those people are in denial and refuse to believe if there’s anything will happen in their town. I find it sad that most of them get car insurance on a monthly basis would not fork up a few hundred to prepare even for just 3-day worth of supplies. I appreciate you sharing this with everyone, the more we prepare, the less we have to help one another when SHTF. A good site I get my kits from is emergencykit411.



Good list. I especially like the waterproof flash drive idea. They come pretty cheap with a lot of space these days. Maybe buy a few drives, important documents on one, special digital photos on another, etc.
In certain disaster situations, most people don’t have time or space to grab photo albums. Family photos are priceless and irreplaceable.



Been working on a kit of my own. A suggestion for fire starting…I make my own….take the cardboard or fiber egg cartons….fill with lint you collect from your dryer and then melt paraffin wax over whole thing. After its has dried you can break up into individual pieces. these are very light..water proof and burn extremely well. I use them when I go to civil war reenactments, I have started fires in down pours with these.



Thanks for the idea Patrick. I will def. try this method.


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